Wheat Christian Bookshop’s story is a familiar one, not just in China, but all over the world. In a world where 5 billion people have access to the internet, technology has become a new arena for persecution. The bookstore raid would have been impossible without widespread digital surveillance. Today, governments and extremists can monitor believers without their consent and, in extreme cases, attack Christians.
This unprecedented reality is reflected in a new report published by Open Doors UK and Ireland, in partnership with the University of Birmingham and the University of Roehampton. The report, Digital Persecution – The New Frontier for Freedom of Religion or Belief, details multiple human rights abuses against religious minorities, all perpetrated via technological abuse in different countries. It also outlines specific steps that governments, the international community and tech companies can take to reduce digital persecution.
The report focuses on three main tools of digital religious persecution: surveillance, censorship and disinformation. While extremists generally use the latter, governments carry out all three. Each poses a significant danger to religious minorities in many countries.